Time to Get Mindful
So many of us live in a constant state of reactivity, being pushed and pulled by the thoughts and emotions we experience. We are controlled by a voice in our head that worries about everything that can go wrong, criticises us for everything we do wrong, and feels guilty or angry about everything that went wrong.
We can get control of that voice by developing awareness. The process of becoming aware is through the practice of mindfulness.
I often talk about becoming the observer of your thoughts and that is exactly what you need to do. When you become a conscious observer of your thoughts, it's like waking from a dream. When you are aware, you can challenge the thoughts, you start to realise that just because you are thinking them they aren't true and that you can be in control. This is particularly helpful when you are giving up alcohol because a massive part of giving up the booze is being able to control our emotions and behaviours.
Until you develop this, you are on auto-pilot reacting to every circumstance that happens in your external world. Mindfulness will help you develop a deep calm when the surface is being really rough.
When you become aware you notice things like:
- when you pick a fight with your partner to match your mood.
- when you are being too judgemental of yourself or others.
- you might notice yourself feeling happy
So, now it's time to take control.
We all have an inner critic, some worse than others. To disassociate from the inner critic it can help to give him or her a name.. Like Bob or Marianne. When Marianne is arcing up or telling you, you can't do something. Feel free to laugh at her. Tell her to shut up. You will never not have negative thoughts but you can stop taking them so seriously.
A Simple Mindfulness Practice
- Find a quiet place free of distractions
- Sit comfortably in any position you desire. Upright is ideal, however you can lay down if you want to. Just make sure your position is comfortable
- Start by bringing your attention to your breathing. Notice the sensation of your breath entering and exiting your nose or mouth. Notice how it feels as the air brushes through. Is it cool? Does it tingle?
- Notice the rise and fall of your chest or abdomen as the air fills and then empties your lungs. Do not force or control your breathing, simply allow it to be natural
- Watch your breathing for about 5 minutes. During this time, you will find that your mind will wander off and think about all sorts of things. This is totally normal. When you notice your mind has wandered off, simply start noticing your breathing again
- The more you practice this, the less your mind will wander. Then, you’ll notice you are better able to keep your focus at other times throughout the day as well!
- As you get used to this activity, you can increase the time sitting to 10, 15, or 20 minutes. What is most important is consistency, so regardless of how long you sit in this mindful state, do it every day
- The most important point of developing a daily meditation practice is consistency, so 3 minutes every day is better than an hour once a week